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Food-Obsessed Pop Artist Hatecopy Shares Her Family Recipes

Toronto-based Desi artist Maria Qamar spills the basmati on a few of her favourite dishes, including how to make the best daal ever.

Hatecopy

Maria Qamar, a.k.a. Hatecopy, is a Toronto-based Desi pop artist whose insanely popular prints, tees and Instagram account led to a book deal (the illustrated survival guide Trust No Aunty was published this summer), and who counts Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham and your very cool niece as fans. She also just ordered $100 worth of Indian food, and is somewhat disappointed with the result. “You’d think a place called Butter Chicken Factory would know how to make butter chicken, but… I should have just made it myself.”

And normally, the 26-year-old would have. With a Bihari father and a Gujarati mother (the family moved from Pakistan to Mississauga when Qamar was nine), she was exposed to a subcontinent’s worth of regional dishes: “I grew up eating food from Bangladesh, Bihar, Pakistan and India, and when you come from a household like that, you have no choice but to learn. But what I wouldn’t give to just walk into a restaurant and order lauki daal!” She can’t, though, so she makes it, and the same fine-I’ll-just-do-it-myself ethos inspires her art: Nothing she saw in galleries or online spoke to young people like her – first-generation South Asian kids growing up at a cultural crossroads – so she started making it. Her Lichtenstein-style panels riff on Desi culture and quirks, like overprotective parents, while tackling appropriation, sexism and questions of identity. There’s also a heck of a lot of food.

Qamar started cooking in college, with an illicit hot plate, one pot and lots of calls home to her mom. “It was freeing to know that I could go to the store, pick up three ingredients and make something amazing.” She’s adapted and perfected her recipes, but she hasn’t managed to master cooking for one. That’s just not how her mother does it. “No matter what, I always end up cooking for four. So, I share with my friends and neighbours. I love cooking for people – it builds stronger bonds.”

DESI FAMILY COOKBOOK 

Words to know

CHUTKI Pinch
JEERA Cumin
NAMAK Salt
NASHTA Breakfast

Hatecopy

Spicy Desi Omelette

The first recipe I learned was this show-stopping six-egg omelette – enough to keep the entire squad energized until lunch. It’s fun to make when you’re alone, but your friends and family will love it (and you for it), too. Serves four.

The Recipe

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 or 2 green chilies, finely sliced
  • Pinch ground Kashmiri chili*
  • Pinch cumin (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ghee (or salted butter)
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • handful fresh cilantro

  1. 1. Crack the eggs into a massive bowl, and add the green chili. (I usually use one, but you can add another if you like the heat. Remember, we’re also adding Kashmiri chili.) Whisk in ground Kashmiri chili, cumin, salt and pepper until everything is mixed evenly.
     
  2. 2. Heat a 9-inch non-stick pan on medium and add a dollop of ghee.
     
  3. 3. Watch it melt. Let it take your senses to a paradise where ghee is calorie-free. Now, back to reality.
     
  4. 4. Once the ghee is melted, add chopped onions and let them soften a little. The sweetness of the onion offsets the umami and heat of the cumin and Kashmiri chili.
     
  5. 5. Add your egg mixture to the pan and let it sizzle. Take a big whiff of the spices and pat yourself on the back for making everyone’s brunch dreams come true. Cover the pan.
     
  6. 6. Once the bottom is nice and golden, flip the omelette, and cook for another minute. Slide the omelette onto a large plate. Top with freshly chopped cilantro and serve.
* Can be found at Indian grocery stores, or substitute with a combination of paprika (for colour) and cayenne (for heat), or kaddi flakes.
 

Hatecopy

Perfect Basmati

I’m spilling all the secrets here, so listen up! No Desi dish is complete without basmati rice, the vessel that carries flavours without diluting taste. (It’s also gluten-free.) But it’s a common misconception that rice is easy to make or (gasp!) can be made in a rice cooker. Sorry technology – I’ll take this into my own hands.

The Recipe

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • Water

  1. 1. Wash your hands thoroughly. As I mentioned, cooking basmati rice is hands-on.
     
  2. 2. Pour 2 cups of rice directly into a small- or medium-sized pot. Note that the heat is not on for this part.
     
  3. 3. Add water to the pot and fill until the water level is 1 inch above the rice. I normally take my index finger and place it in the pot, making sure the first third of my finger is submerged.
     
  4. 4. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water evaporates to reveal the rice grains, turn the heat down to medium, and cover the rice and let sit for another 5 minutes. The total process should take 15 to 20 minutes, and always results in perfectly cooked, separated grains. You can add a tiny bit of oil to loosen the rice.
     
  5. 5. Serve under any curried dish, or on the side with fried onion, topped with cumin seeds. Mmmm!

 

Hatecopy

Best Daal Ever

I don’t care if you’ve been a chef your whole life, I’ll challenge anyone: My daal is better than yours. Guaranteed. Except if you’re my mother. Like an idiot, I shared my recipe with her, and now she’s improved on it. I’ll have to ask her how she did that…

The Recipe

  • Oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 2 green chilies, cracked or cut in half
  • ¾ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cumin (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½ cups red lentils, rinsed
  • Water
  • 2 handfuls fresh cilantro

  1. 1. Place a deep stewpot on medium heat.
     
  2. 2. Add ginger garlic paste and a splash of oil, and let simmer for a bit.
     
  3. 3. Add green chilies (cracked or cut in half and thrown in), turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper to the mix. Roast until your house smells like my mom’s does.
     
  4. 4. Add your (rinsed) lentils to the mix and roast some more – a few minutes will do.
     
  5. 5. Add a cup of water and let it dissolve the lentils. Continue adding until your lentils get a smooth, creamy consistency, like risotto (around 15 minutes).
     
  6. 6. Add two big handfuls of chopped cilantro, cover and let rest on low for another 15 minutes.
     
  7. 7. Serve over basmati and thank me later!

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FOOD & DRINK    

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